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December 2008 Archives

The College Board has raised hackles again with a policy change. Called Score Choice, this program gives students the option to control which test scores get sent to schools. (This really isn't a new policy; it's a return to an earlier policy circa 1993-2002 when students could choose to send schools their best scores over several test sittings.)

Both sides of the standardized testing debate weigh in on this return to an earlier policy. Some say this element of control lowers student anxiety; the pro-testers want to see all the scores.

When I applied to college 25 years ago, the schools told me outright that they would use my best score from each piece of the test(s) to build the best composite; Bruce Poch, vice president and dean of admissions at Pomona College tells the New York Times ("SAT Changes Policy, Opening Rift With Colleges") that this is the current policy at Pomona.

For large institutions standardized tests are important measures in their mass situations. Small schools or schools with large admission staffs have the time and resources to evaluate students closely and individually.

My solution- why don't schools communicate up-front- directly and clearly- how their admission office uses the SAT and ACT? It seems that much anxiety and debate could be diffused with more transparency. A lot of wheel spinning and misplaced energy seems to grow out of the fact that families and students don't understand the meaning of each test at each school.

Tell students and families how the standardized test scores factor into admission decisions each school. Being informed- not given an illusory choice- gives families the ability to make proper judgments
The Edward E. Ford Foundation recently made a $250,000 matching educational leadership grant to George School in support of the school's service programs. George will use the money to bolster its international service programs.

Head of School Nancy Starmer told the Intelligencer, "George School faculty have established and led international service trips for over 60 years....We are deeply honored that the ... foundation has affirmed the success of our service programs and recognized our vision. ..."

George believes in the transformative power of service and work.

Growing from the school's Quaker roots, George School has a long history and dedication to service programs- ranging from local efforts to national and international projects. Students begin with campus service projects. Projects and responsibilities grow outward as students strengthen their work ethic.  

"As part of George School's service program, each student is required to perform an on-campus service job (known as a "co-op" assignment) for 60 to 90 minutes per week each year....Co-op assignments can involve work such as tidying a classroom or helping out in the George School Children's Center. All students begin co-op by working in the dining room. During some class sessions of Essentials of a Friends Community, teachers will work side by side with their students in the dining room... George School's service program also requires each student to take part in one significant service project of at least sixty-five hours during the junior or senior year."
Read more about George School's service programs on their website.
Editor's Note: We're thrilled to welcome Leo Marshall as a contributor to onBoarding Schools. Leo is the Director of Admission and Financial Aid at The Webb Schools in Claremont, CA- a coed, boarding school offering grades 9-12.

It seems inevitable at the end of any presentation about our school that we face questions about test scores. Perhaps, it's because we are selective (i.e. there are more applications than available space) that families are attempting to discern the exact requirements that might guarantee admission. They don't always have a clear idea of how all this works and can see test scores as, perhaps, the only hard criteria that they might understand. Unfortunately, most do not understand the purpose of admission tests or their place in the admission process.  

Admission tests like the Secondary Schools Admission Test (SSAT), which are required by virtually every selective boarding school, are what we call aptitude tests. They do not measure what a student knows about history or science, for example. Those are called achievement tests. What aptitude tests tell is exactly what their name implies: they tell us a student's relative aptitude for doing the kind of work necessary to find success in a college preparatory school. Every school, therefore, usually has a good sense of what scores predict relative success. A student's aptitude test results, however, are meaningless unless they are measured against a school's own criteria for what kind of student is best suited for the school's program. Now this is fairly maddening for the average applicant parent as none of us can say categorically that there is a certain score for all schools that can guarantee their child is qualified for admission. What we can say about the matter is that such scores are only one small, albeit important, piece of the admission puzzle.

Test scores tell us where the applicant falls relative to the competition and to students who have attended our school in the past and found success. But boarding schools look for much more than a test score. We look for students who can live in a diverse community of students and adults, students who have a certain amount of emotional intelligence that is not easily measured by any test currently designed for admission. We look for students who have not exemplified themselves solely by a grade point average but by what actually went into that grade average, i.e. mastery of a subject. We hope to learn that from the candidate's teachers. We also search for that student who will contribute to our schools in a profound way through, perhaps, a special talent or interest. Every school needs to fill its orchestra or choir, for example, and every school has sports teams that need athletes.

In spite of our efforts, however, to explain where scores fit in this list of criteria for admission, parents still insist on enrolling their children in test preparation courses at sometimes exorbitant costs. Perhaps more alarming is the fact that they sacrifice the necessary play time every adolescent needs in search of those elusive ten to fifteen points they think will make a difference in our admission decisions (which they won't). Instead of encouraging their children to read a variety of books, they believe memorizing vocabulary words will give their child an edge. The fact of the matter is that it works in the opposite way. When we meet a candidate whose entire after-school life centers on tutors for math, English, or SSAT preparation at the expense of engaging in that activity they find most rewarding, we become less interested in the candidate.

So, where do these scores fall in the whole scheme of things? At The Webb Schools, we know that typically a student should find success if they are in the upper quartile of those tested in a particular year. But after that we look at so many other things. Yes, we have turned down top test-takers and taken a chance on those with weaker scores because they just might add a unique spark to our community.  That is the art of admissions and, regrettably for that parent looking for a definitive answer to the puzzle, it is an art that remains abstract at best.

Editor's Note:  Visit The Webb Schools' (Claremont, CA) website to learn more about the school  and its programs.

Donald Frey (Wake Forest University, Economics Professor)  and Lynn Munson (formerly, National Endowment for the Humanities) wrote an op-ed piece in today's Boston Globe challenging the conventional wisdom of eternal saving and endowment growth. They make the case that colleges and universities would make better more effective use of endowment monies by committing to spending more- putting the money to use.

They assert that the rainy day has arrived:

"Since colleges and universities pay no taxes on their endowments or on the income they earn, the public has a keen interest in knowing whether schools are adopting payout policies that make sense. The rainy day so many colleges and universities have saved for is here. The question is whether these institutions will have the wisdom to step up spending in response."
This argument means little to most boarding schools with modest endowments. However, for the extraordinarily well-endowed boarding schools, it's perhaps fair to ask, "how can the endowment be put the best use during tight times" and "might we consider spending endowment monies differently in future prosperity?"

I've included this link to an earlier New York Times article for background reading of large boarding school endowments.
Michael Cooper, Brewster Academy's Head of School, sent the extended Brewster community (I'm a 1991 grad) a letter yesterday detailing a Lakes Region land gift valued at $6.3 million.

The gift, made by former Fidelity Investments President James C. Curvey and his family, consists of over 11 acres of lakefront property. The Curvey family intends the gift to provide scholarships to students in the greater Alton/Wolfeboro area.

Dr. Cooper wrote about the scholarship program and additional opportunities made possible by the gift:
Scholarships will go to three local students (in the greater Alton & Wolfeboro area) per year for their four years at Brewster, starting with the first three in the fall term of 2009. Ultimately, 12 students at a time will benefit from this gift.

In addition to honoring the Curvey family legacy of supporting educational opportunities for talented students, the donation expands the Academy's lakefront resources and provides the setting for more hands-on educational opportunities that will enhance current offerings such as Fresh Water Ecology, Environmental Science, Character Leadership, and other experiential learning programs.

Congrats to the folks at BA. The generosity of the Curvey family is sure to benefit the BA community over the years to come.
There's a different way to think about boarding school. Boarding school can take you beyond the United States. International boarding schools have the ability to place you in a different environment, language and culture.

Say "boarding school" and most people's minds conjure visions of traditional New England boarding schools. Idyllic, well cared for campuses, small classes, dorm life, athletics, extracurricular activities and involved faculty. The view is mostly accurate.

Think the movie, Dead Poet's Society and John Knowles' novel A Separate Peace.

Going abroad can provide a host of experiences that enhance and make the traditional boarding experience richer and more challenging. You can learn a new language; travel and live in a unique part of the world; immerse yourself in the customs and perspectives of a different culture and, most importantly, you can practice flexibility, thoughtfulness and tolerance as you live and learn in new ways.

Many of these study abroad boarding school opportunities are defined term programs- providing some nice benefits in terms of educational planning and flexibility. The fixed term doesn't require a multi-year commitment as traditional boarding school might. Upon completion, you return to your former school. And, if you choose a summer only program, your traditional school year program maintains continuity.

Four programs with long, strong, histories and different perspectives offer reputable study-abroad programs for high school students.

School Year Abroad
SYA offers programs in China, France Italy, Spain and India.  Briefly from their web site:

SYA began as "Schoolboys Abroad" when 12 students and three teachers left for Spain in September 1964 with the backing of Phillips Academy; Phillips Exeter Academy became a co-sponsor in 1965; the French program opened in Rennes with 42 boys in 1967; and St. Paul's School (NH) joined as a third sponsor in 1968. In 1970 the program began admitting girls and changed its name. Two years later additional secondary schools were invited to join SYA as member schools of the first incarnation of our consortium; and in 1975 School Year Abroad was legally established as a nonprofit institution with a board of trustees  comprised of the heads of the three charter member schools.

The Experiment in International Living
The Experiment offers summer programs in 17 countries.  From the Experiment's web site:

Through homestays, adventure travel, experiential learning, and language immersion, students build leadership and communication skills, gain essential international experience, increase their self-confidence, and enhance their global awareness. Whatever the destination or focus, all Experiment summer abroad programs engage students in a profoundly moving educational journey of cultural exploration and discovery.

Each Experiment is a laboratory without borders, where Experimenters live with local families and explore themes from the arts to ecology that serve as windows of learning into another way of life. The Experiment's international summer high school programs feature opportunities in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Oceania, and Asia. For three to five weeks, Experimenters focus on themes such as community service, language study, travel, ecology, the arts, sustainable development and fair trade, cooking, photography, theater, or outdoor adventure as they enjoy daily life with their host families and participate in activities with their group.

Leysin American School
Leysin offers traditional nine month academic year and summer program for high school students and they now have a junior high program all in Leysin, Switzerland.  From Leysin's web site:

...The school they imagined was to be a place without boundries- where students from every country could learn to be citizens of the world together wher mouintains would build their strength and teachers their minds.  A place that would be beautifully hidden and yet in the middle of everything.  They called it Leysin American School.  Today, it's lived up to their dreams and beyond...

EduKick International Soccer Boarding Schools
EduKick brings an athletic perspective to study abroad.  Specializing in soccer player opportunities and development, EduKick offers International Soccer Boarding Schools in Italy, Spain, France, England, Mexico and Brazil.  Edukicks gears it's programs to soccer players of considerable talent and dedication using the description, "Professional Soccer Development Academic Year Boarding Schools"

EduKick describes its programs this way:

Training and studying abroad in an EduKick international soccer boarding school equips young student-players for life's challenges in a way no other experience can. Not only will they be prepared for a competitive international soccer environment, they will learn a deep appreciation for a new language and culture as well. By participating in an EduKick Soccer Boarding School Program, a player distinguishes himself from his peers as a soccer player by committing to a year-long soccer development training course abroad. Players learn that the world is much bigger than their neighborhood and they begin to consider their potential within this "bigger" world!

Today's Memphis Commercial Appeal includes an interesting story covering school single gender classrooms in the Memphis public school system. This article makes a good addition to the vigorous discussion surrounding single gender education.

Much like The Webb Schools, about which we've written, Memphis has seen learning and test score improvements since providing lower school (9th and 10th grades) boys and girls with their own spaces beginning in fall 2006.

Like Webb, Memphis bases their decision to offer single gender classrooms on the research of Dr. Leonard Sax who points out that single gender classrooms have historically been the province of private schools and those who can afford them. Dr. Sax argues single gender classrooms and their benefits should be a public school choice as well.

Moving to single gender classrooms is not without its risks.  As Dr. Sax told the Commercial Appeal:

"...simply putting girls in one room and boys in another accomplishes very little and can lead to disaster...One danger is reinforcing gender stereotypes by teaching algebra to girls based on shopping analogies or packing lessons for males with football.

  Not all boys like football. You end up disadvantaging children who don't fit the stereotype"
Effective single gender classrooms require thought, planning and understanding. The single gender classroom is a means, not an end.

Memphis is enjoying great success with the understanding and tool provided by the single gender means.

Our previous commentary on single gender education was prompted by a spirited exchange between Lenora M. Lapidus, Director & Emily J. Martin, Deputy Director of ACLU Women's Rights Project- New York and Meg Moulton, Executive Director of the National Coalition of Girls' Schools.
California Boarding SchoolsBoth our educational consultant and the head of our daughter's school encouraged us to visit a certain school in California. Initially it seemed crazy to us to consider a school so far away when we live surrounded by the country's great preparatory schools. However there were some cultural sites we wished to visit, and a school visit justified a junket. As we flew into the airport, wildfires were raging beneath the plane. It was a beautiful, terrifying sight, and one which I thought would put our daughter off California forever. However the warm weather and outdoor lifestyle drew her right in.

Our school visit was the fourth day. The drive to the campus winds through orange and olive groves and ends in a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside. When we first arrived all of us there for interviews were introduced to each other , and we sat in the reception room and chatted with the admissions officers. They also had the best scones of all the schools we have visited and a lovely selection of teas and coffee. This always makes me feel as if my child will be well-fed.

It's one of those schools where the child has a separate tour from the parents. Our tour guide was well-chosen for Easterners anxious about sending their baby far from home as she too was from the East Coast. She spoke articulately about the school and her reasons for loving it. Afterwards we realized we had seen very few indoor spaces, rather the tour was about the ethos and culture of the school. The interview was similar in that we skipped right over many of the traditional questions on both sides and went right to approaches to education and how our family values fit with the school's values. When we were told that there are no mall trips, we knew the school could be a great fit for our child.
After the interview we had the opportunity to watch the student-run school assembly, where we were impressed by how supportive the students were of each other and how articulately the made their announcements. That it was held in an outdoor amphitheater further added to the charm of the school.

It was exciting for us to visit a school which is so true to its mission, so committed to having the students lead active outdoor lives while still maintaining the highest academics standards. We left calculating how many trips our frequent-flyer miles would get us if our daughter is fortunate enough to be accepted.

Culver AcademiesFrank and Jane Batten have made a two part gift to the Culver Academies that could total $70 million. $20 million of the gift goes toward the creation of the Batten Fellows program which will insure competitive faculty salaries and development opportunities. $50 million of the gift sets-up the Batten Leadership Challenge which will match endowment gifts up to $50 million. Successful completion of the full match will bring the Batten's Culver commitment to over $100 million.

Mr. Batten cites Culver's positive influence on his life as motivation for the gift:

"Culver was a very positive influence in my life at an impressionable age with its unique emphasis on individual responsibility, ethical decision-making, and student leadership. Jane and I are pleased to give back to present and future students what was given to me."
John Buxton, Culver's head told an interviewer:

"This is the gift every head of schools in the country dreams about. The Batten Fellows Program may be the most generous gift for faculty salaries in the history of secondary school philanthropy. The gift benefits those who make the real difference in students' lives: the faculty. Culver may be the first school in the country to have such an endowment. We are extremely grateful to Frank and Jane Batten for making such a program possible for Culver. This gift will allow us to recognize excellence in teaching and to promote its faculty in a more appropriate way."
Mr. Batten is Culver Alumnus, an emeritus member of Culver's board and the retired CEO of Landmark Communications which recently sold The Weather Channel to a consortium of NBC, Blackstone Management Partners and Bain Capital Partners.

You can read Culver's news release on Marketwire.

Photo credit: Devonaire Eye
Florida Air Academy faculty member, Lania Rosengren, recently attended the award ceremony as a nominee for Science Teacher of the Year- a national contest sponsored by Discovery Education and the 3M Foundation. She was one of five finalists for the award.
Rosengren challenges and entertains her students by presenting lessons through rap in the classroom. As Ms. Rosengren told
"Every year I perform at least one rap for my students about the subject we are learning. I find a song and make up the lyrics. I dress up, and a lot of students do not even recognize me. When they figure it out, they go crazy! When I perform, a lot of students want to rap along with me, dance and there's a lot of laughing and cheering. I encourage them to try and rap along with me as I pass out the lyrics. I try to make my lessons interesting enough for the students to want to learn and this is one way I found that really works."
Ms. Rosengren also receives great accolades from her colleagues at Florida Air. Antiny White, FAA's Principal, told
"Lania is a wonderful example of how creative and innovative methods can really transform the learning process. She has high academic standards, and she makes science fun for the students. That's everything you want in a teacher. We're excited for her that she's receiving this kind of national recognition."
AdmissionsQuest's onBoarding School blog anniversaryAn epiphany struck us today; onBoarding Schools, our boarding school blog, launched one year ago today. Via serendipity, or just plain old "dumb luck," this first birthday coincides with this 150th post.

We've averaged almost 3 entries a week since starting with Brian doing lots of the heavy lifting. He has done a fantastic job keeping AQ's finger on the pulse of the boarding school world.

I extend heartfelt thanks to our readers & contributors who keep the questions and conversations thoughtful and lively. Our readers move the dialog; I hope you'll continue reading and commenting.

Photo credit: darkewolf
Late week we wrote a piece about the growing number of colleges that no longer use the SAT as part of their admission evaluation. I had no idea that the number of non-SAT colleges and universities had grown to 800 or so. We noted that the choice to remove standardized testing from the college admission equation tends to be the province of private liberal art colleges that have admission staffs with the time and funding necessary to read about, interview and evaluate each candidate uniquely.

Major state universities I surmised, require a standard measurement tool of some sort even if imperfect.

The New York Times published an article ("Scarsdale Adjusts to Life Without Advanced Placement Courses") this past Saturday about the Scarsdale public schools abandonment of the prescribed Advanced Placement (A.P.) curriculum in favor of the district's own Advanced Topics or AT curriculum. The AT approach is a broader, more integrated, presentation of material- an integrated humanities approach.

The pro-A.P. and anti-A.P. sides have their voices. While A.P. advocates highlight the test's effective measurement and accepted status, A.P. opponents argue for a greater curriculum diversity and flexibility.

While it's nice to be able to move beyond the defined A.P. curriculum, John Klemme, Scarsdale's principal told the NY Times:

"We have the luxury of being able to move beyond the A.P. If people called it a gold curriculum in the past, I refer to this version as the platinum curriculum."
Opting out of the process is still a function of privilege. The A.P. program is by no means perfect.  But, a consistent examination, requiring certain preparations, provides one way to evaluate students north to south and east to west.
Gould Academy is the only school in the nation to offer a course leading to certification for the National Ski Patrol. Based at the foot of Sunday River ski resort in Bethel, ME, Gould students commit to a program of rigorous training- learning the codes, medical proficiencies and responsibilities necessary for rescue and aid in a winter environment.

Students complete 80+ hours of Winter Emergency Care training and work their way through junior status toward the eventual goal of becoming a member of the Sunday River Ski Patrol.

The dedication and maturity required to learn and practice emergency response- and in particular cold weather emergency response- are mature, impressive lessons that students carry with them into all parts of their lives.

The ski patrol certification course is part of Gould Academy's On-Snow program.

Checkout this news segment shot by WCSH-6 News:

Photo credit: abkfenris
With the break from school and the slower routine, the end of year holidays provide a great time to make sure your ducks are in a row with respect to the private school application process. This is an overview of where you might expect to be if you're on an ideal application calendar. If you're in a different spot in the process- don't worry. It's a process; all the pieces can be compressed and sped-up if you need to.

By the end of the year, you should have worked through the following steps for Fall 2009 school admission:

  1. Committed to exploring a school change.

  2. Developed an understanding of your child as a student. How does he/she learn best?  In what type of environment does he/she thrive? Does he/she structure/support?  Does your student have a strong talent or ability that needs an especially strong program- art, music, athletics?

  3. Researched and explored schools- understanding the difference between different schools.

  4. Settled on a list of schools with environments and programs that will best nurture your student.

  5. Ordered application packages and started the application process at these schools. This includes completing the applications and working with your current teachers and school to have recommendations and assessments written.

  6. Scheduled interviews at these schools.

  7. Financial Aid. You should be gathering financial data and be completing the SSS financial disclosure from.
The process requires a good deal of gathering & information management; planning and is paramount. As I mentioned earlier, all of the parts can be compressed if you arrived late.

Financial Aid  
If you plan on applying for financial aid, start early. The financial aid process requires lots of disclosure and it can take some time to gather the information.

Also, schools may accept admission applications on a rolling admission basis. Be aware, however, that financial aid is not awarded nor is it usually available on a rolling basis. Financial aid applications have a fixed, early application date and you must submit your applications on time.
There are a couple of final school visits to share with you, but as time is running short in the admissions process, today I want to move to the real work of the process- the applications.  We met with our educational consultant at the beginning of last week to winnow the list of schools visited to a list of six to which our daughter will apply. The goal was to have two "reach" schools, two "probably" schools and two "safety schools. While this sounds logical, in reality it may be just a mind game as our son was accepted into one of his "reach" schools and wait-listed at both his "probably" schools. After much discussion, our daughter decided to apply to five schools, which based on the feedback from the schools and our own instinct seems reasonable. It's been an interesting process as there are schools on her final list which I never would have guessed would have made the cut at the beginning of the process and schools to which she doesn't want to apply that I was sure she would love.

Over Thanksgiving, we sorted out all the reference forms with a separate folder for each subject, signed all the releases and stamped all the envelopes before putting it all in a big envelope for the administrator at her school to distribute. Two of the schools like an additional personal reference. This is a more difficult decision as we wanted someone who knows our daughter well but also whom we also feel will take the time to write a thoughtful and balanced recommendation. Our daughter chose to ask her riding instructor.  Our son asked a Boy Scout leader and a Sunday School teacher. I am a believer in accompanying the references with an effusive thank you note as writing all of them for the many eighth graders who are applying to schools must be a labor of love.

Our daughter is now on her own to write the essays while we write our own essays for the parent statements. In our house that means, I write and my husband edits.  It's hard not to provide input into their essays and hard to distill my child into a page on her strengths and weaknesses. Maybe AdmissionsQuest can tell us how the essays are weighted versus the interview and recommendations. It might relieve some of the pressure.
Having worked their way into the open and everyday conversations and perspectives of education over the last couple of decades, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the latest wrinkle in the ADD and ADHD world of definition and treatment. We've certainly known that students with ADD/ADHD are more than capable of harnessing their talents and abilities; and, many are supremely talented.

The latest wave of ADD/ADHD dialog now takes the disorder beyond strategy and treatment- repackaging the diagnosis into a positive trait that some argue is a blessing. I'm left scratching my head. Why define, diagnose, and treat ADD/ADHD if it's such a valuable tool/perspective?

Framed by Michael Phelps, his ADHD status, and his unbelievable Olympic performance, Tara Parker-Pope highlights both sides of issue in her New York Times article, "A New Face for A.D.H.D., and a Debate."

The two perspectives (as told to Ms. Parker-Pope):

"It's not an unmitigated blessing, but neither is it an unmitigated curse, which is usually the way it's presented," said Dr. Hallowell, who has the disorder himself. "I have been treating this condition for 25 years and I know that if you manage it right, this apparent deficit can become an asset. I think of it as a trait and not a disability."

From the other side,

"This reframing A.D.H.D. as a gift, personally I don't think it's helpful," said Natalie Knochenhauer, founder of A.D.H.D. Aware, an advocacy group in Doylestown, Pa. "You can't have a disability that needs to be accommodated in the classroom, and also have this special gift. There are a lot of people out there -- not only do their kids not have gifts, but their kids are really struggling."

Ms. Knochenhauer, who has four children with the disorder, says they too were inspired by the astonishing performance of Mr. Phelps in Beijing. But she added, "I would argue that Michael Phelps is a great swimmer with A.D.H.D., but he's not a great swimmer because he has A.D.H.D."
From hearsay to media reporting, the subject has found the light. The economic slowdown has, and will, affect private schools and their families. In an earlier post, we noted Trinity Pawling School Headmaster, Arch Smith's open, honest letter on the matter; his was the first public discussion from a school administrator that we'd seen on the topic. In the tight world of New York City private schools, the financial climate has prompted several schoools to publish similar letters addressing admission, financial aid, and school fiscal health.

Winnie Hu and Alison Leigh Cowan wrote "Private Schools Say They're Thriving in Downturn" in November 28th's New York Times. Alongside the article, the Times provides copies of letters from seven schools addressing the current financial situation. You can download each as a pdf file.

The article title proves more optimistic than the content. While some schools may indeed live through these times unscathed, the latter 2/3 of the article features the ways in which schools are working lower costs and live in leaner times.

I find the honesty and candor reassuring and comforting. We can work with the problem when it's out in the open. Let us know what you think about this challenge by leaving a comment. We'd love to add your thoughts & ideas to the conversation.
Let's be blunt; the crazy year in the financial markets is crushing and causing a wholesale resetting of budgets in priorities for everyone in tuition based education. Collegiate losses of endowment value and income are affecting college budget priorities and decisions. Wealthy, heavily endowed colleges and universities are paring back- beginning with (most obviously) building programs.

All parts of college and school budgets are under pressure. Three recent articles provide good insight into the shortfalls and compromises that everyone in tuition driven education faces.

Colleges Struggle to Preserve Financial Aid (New York Times)

Citing tough economy, Northeastern shelves dorm plan (Boston Globe)

MIT looks to slice $50m from budget (Boston Globe)

From an admission and financial aid standpoint, budget constraints bring the student's ability to pay back into the admission equation.

From the above New York Times article:

"Morton Schapiro, president of Williams College in Massachusetts, which has long had a commitment to accepting students without considering their financial situation, said he doubted that all colleges with such full need-blind policies would be able to hold to them.

"The major dial you turn for most financial crises is that you admit more students who can pay, as a way of increasing revenues," Mr. Schapiro said. "With the tremendous decline in wealth, I think fewer people will hold on to needs blind."

Less money means similar cuts on the boarding school world

Tight budgets, declining endowment values and family's ability to pay now sit squarely in the middle of every boarding school head's, business manager's and admission director's office. Suddenly, with a smaller endowment, less endowment income and fewer families willing and able to pay full price, the strain on boarding school budgets is enormous. Schools have less income while facing current budgeting and increased demand on financial aid.

Frustrating we don't see or hear a vigorous public conversation about the problem- along with thoughts on how to address it. Deep into this fall, word on street from schools was that all was fine- that the numbers look good. We kept squinting, shaking our heads and wondering how?

Beneath the veneer, we heard some quiet rumblings.

On November 11 a headmaster, put the truth on the table and in the light for all to see. Arch Smith, Trinity-Pawling School head, authored and sent a letter to the greater T-P community. He acknowledged the reality of the situation and publicly spoke of the ways that T-P will adjust and pursue its mission while insuring its future. The school will tighten its belt and behave prudently.

We commend and appreciate Mr. Smith's willingness to confront and talk about this issues. With concerns in the open, everyone- schools, families, faculty, boards, and donors- can see, understand, think about and adjust to current realities and constraints. Only after illuminating and and elucidating everything can we all make the best decisions about the best ways to sacrifice, persevere and arrive at a resolution wiser and more prudent.

Mr. Smith's letter is the best piece of open, forthright management that I've seen from a school in recent memory. You can read his full letter at the T-P web site.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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January 2009 is the next archive.

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